Karen McNeill was a graduate student in history at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1999 when a professor gave her a subject for her master's thesis: the state's first licensed female architect, Julia Morgan, who designed more than 700 buildings in California. Though she was embarrassed that she had never heard of Morgan, McNeill has gone on to become one of the foremost authorities on the pioneering architect and will be keynote speaker at the Julia Morgan 2012 Festival. "The more I got to know about her, the more intriguing she became to me," McNeill says.

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